Alternative Medicine

February 21, 2013
By Meganny BRONZE, Oswego, Illinois
Meganny BRONZE, Oswego, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The world of medicine is always growing. New drugs, new tools, new cures… But we may be ignoring the most important and helpful resource in the world of medicine: nature. Alternative medicine is a fast-growing way of treating diseases and health issues using unconventional means. Alternative medicine has been used for centuries. It is a cheaper, simpler way to cure medical issues.

One of the most popular choices is herbal medicine. There are over eighty thousand species of herbs and plants used as medicine around the world. In fact, 80% of the world relies as herbs alone for medicine. It is also the primary health care in China for over 2,500 years. Any part of the plant can be used, including the root, stem, or flower, for medicinal purposes. 25% of prescription drugs are plant-based, but many more drugs have parts of plants in them as well. Plus, a plant’s organic molecules can be used as models for synthetic drugs. Herbs can also be taken directly: they can be eaten raw, dissolved in tea, capsules, tablets, or syrup. You may not know it, but everyday herbs can be used as medicine. For example, garlic can lower cholesterol, high blood pressure, relieve stomach and intestine problems, and digestive disorders.
Aromatherapy is using essential oils from herbs and flowers to stimulate nerves. Inhaling molecules of extracts stimulates the olfactory nerve. This sends messages to the brain limbic system, which controls memory, learning, and emotion. This explains why some people feel a negative feeling when smelling a certain scent and others feel happy. The essential oils can be applied to the skin, inhaled directly, massaged, or used in a bath. You may have used lavender if you’re having trouble sleeping or coconut if you’re stressed. Some other common oils are peppermint, vanilla, rosemary, and lemon, which can either stimulate mental concentration or soothe and relax you.

Not to mention physical therapies! Chiropractic is one of the most well-known methods. A misaligned spine can interfere with nerve impulses, preventing the body from regulating tissues and causing pain and disease. A chiropractor manipulates the spine and body parts to make the spine "right" and fix the problem. However the Chinese play a big role in alternative therapies. They brought us acupuncture, moxibustion, and quigong. The Chinese believe in "chi" which is the vital energy in a person. Building up chi promotes healing. They believe sickness occurs when yin and yang are disrupted. Most Chinese therapies revolve around the idea of chi. For example, quigong. It uses meditation, movement, relaxation, and breathing techniques to build up chi and heal. Acupuncture is stimulating tiny points on the surface of the body using hair-thin needles. The acupuncture points can also be stimulated using finger pressure, heat, suction, or electrical impulses. Moxibustion is burning small cones of an herb at acupuncture points. Chances are you have probably done some kind of yoga in your life. But did you know it's a great healing option for people with any sickness? It keeps your mind off of stressful issues. Yoga can improve your physical, mental, and even spiritual health as well as flexibility, balance, circulation, respiration, energy, and even metabolism. People who practice yoga also have less of a chemical that causes inflammation.

I've gone over the common areas of alternative medicines but there are many more. Like folk medicine, homeopathy, and placebo. Homeopathy involves drugs that are dangerous if taken in a large amount but heals if taken in small amounts. To do this, the drugs are extremely diluted. Some people argue that there is such a small amount of drug that it has no effect. That brings me to the next subject, placebo. Patients are sometimes given a placebo drug that has no medical side effects but they don't know. They think their health is improving and it does! Folk medicine uses objects, herbs, or animal parts to heal. Folk medicine practitioners, called medicine men, or shaman, also perform complex ceremonies involving magic or witchcraft. Shamans are doctors credited with magical powers. This causes a lot of controversy to arise. Magic is unscientific and unproven.

I support alternative medicines. They are cheap, simple, and have worked for hundreds of years. Homeopathy is an alternative to antibiotics because it is the best approach to viral problems. It can also reduce the need for surgery. But some say it is "poor methodical quality" or that the labels don't always provide enough dosage information. And the most powerful drugs can be harmful even with dilutions. Herbal medicine is also controversial. Buying medicinal herbs are usually unregulated. And a lot of herb can be dangerous; you need to know the risks. It can be easy to overdose and under dose if someone is not medically trained. Some argue that pills are all the same so it's easy to take the correct dosage. But alternative medicine is a great option for almost any disease; from mild to severe.

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